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The Pharaoh's Secret (NUMA Files 13) Clive Cussler 2022/7/22 13:55:08

“I’ve seen all the Star Wars movies multiple times,” Joe replied proudly.

“So you’ve got this one under control?”

“Absolutely,” Joe said. “Go get his partner. By the time you get back, I’ll have this guy gift-wrapped and placed in your stocking.”

As Kurt took off, Joe faced his enemy directly. After sizing him up, he switched from holding the crowbar like a sword to wielding it with a two-handed grip like a battle staff.

Hagen swiped at Joe once more, but Joe blocked him with one end of the crowbar and jabbed at him with the other, hitting him in the face and giving him a bloody nose.

“You know how you doctors like to say, ‘This won’t hurt a bit’?” Joe asked. “I don’t think that applies in this case. It’s probably going to be quite painful.”

Hagen stepped forward and began to swing wildly. He fought with desperation, shouting and even spitting at Joe.

Joe was all balance and poise. He moved with the quickness of a trained fighter. His footwork smooth and precise. Each lunge or hack from the sword was easily dealt with, each swing blocked or avoided.

He counterattacked with ease, feinting with one end of the crowbar and then swinging with the other. “Not only have I seen all the Star Wars movies,” he warned, “I’m a big fan of Errol Flynn.”

“Who’s Errol Flynn?” Hagen said.

Hagen did not reply and Joe moved into attack mode. He jabbed at the doctor and forced him back with one end of the crowbar and then swung the other end around and down. A sickening crack came from Hagen’s shoulder and the doctor let out a painful cry.

“I’m pretty sure that was your humorous bone,” Joe said, “though I’m betting it wasn’t very funny.”

Hagen grunted. “It was my clavicle, you idiot.” He was tilted over now like a bird with a broken wing.

“Okay, let me try again,” Joe said, raising the crowbar for another strike.

“Stop,” he said, throwing the sword to the ground. “I give up. Just stop hitting me.”

Hagen dropped to his knees, grasping his broken collarbone and wincing in agony, but as Joe stepped forward, the doctor played one last trick. He pulled a syringe from his pocket and tried to plunge it into Joe’s leg. Joe saw it just in time and blocked it downward, where it went into Hagen’s own thigh.

Whatever was in the needle, it worked almost instantly. Hagen’s eyes rolled up and he fell sideways onto his injured shoulder without the slightest bit of protest.

“Great,” Joe said. “Now I have to carry you.”

Joe bent down beside him and felt for a pulse. Thankfully, he found one. He pulled the syringe out and broke off the needle before slipping it into his pocket. He thought it might be wise to find out what had been inside.

As Joe figured out what to do with the unconscious doctor, Kurt moved with deliberate caution in search of the second fugitive. He figured the man was either out of ammunition or had lost his weapon because he hadn’t fired any more shots, but that didn’t mean another ambush wasn’t in the works.

As he moved forward, he heard the sound of footsteps on loose gravel from another stairwell. Kurt pressed himself against the wall and peered around the corner. The stairway was curved back in on itself in a spiral as it went up to the next level of the battlements. It wasn’t a long ascent, but the stone wall made it impossible to see more than a few steps at a time.

Kurt held perfectly still, listening. For several seconds, there was no sound at all. Then, suddenly, the muted e

cho of someone running and clearing the last few steps.

Kurt ducked onto the stairwell and charged upward. Thirty tight curving steps, carved for men in the eighteen hundreds who had shorter strides and smaller frames. It was a tight fit, but Kurt moved quickly and came out the top in time to see a man running across the flat space of the gunnery deck.

He was headed for the far side, where a row of ancient cannon pointed their muzzles toward the sea. Kurt sprinted after him, hopping over a short wall and cutting across the courtyard at an angle. He was closing in when his quarry scrambled over the ramparts at the far end and dropped eight feet to the deck below.

Kurt reached the wall, palmed it as he went over and dropped to the next level as well. Flexing his legs to absorb the impact, he stayed upright, but the assassin was already forty feet away and leaping over the next wall.

Kurt followed and discovered that this drop was closer to ten feet. “Figures I end up chasing the guy who’s half mountain goat.”

Kurt eyed the drop to a sloping ramp. He jumped, hit the stone ramp and continued the chase.